There are a few things I enjoy collecting – tikis, vinyl records and merchandise from EPCOT Center (I first showed some items from my collection in a previous post. With the 30th anniversary of Epcot around the corner, I wanted to share some stories and images from the early days of merchandise (special thanks to my fellow author Nate Rasmussen for help with the images). The funny thing is that I’ve been waiting 10 years to write this Disney Parks Blog post.
While serving as a Disney Ambassador in 2002, I created a cast member presentation that discussed the EPCOT Center story (I’m honored that it’s something the Ambassador Team still uses today). At the time, I found a few merchandise related articles that have sat in a notebook until now.
Merchandise development began around 1980 with the development teams “looking for merchandise so unique and different that it didn’t exist.” EPCOT Center was to be a different experience from Magic Kingdom Park, which had opened a decade earlier. Designers wanted new items that didn’t contain well established Disney logos or characters. That is one reason why much of the early merchandise used that globe-like logo and four iconic colors of purple, red, orange and yellow.
Early merchandise also included characters that were only found at the park like Figment, Dreamfinder or the cast of Kitchen Kabaret. Other Disney characters wouldn’t be found at EPCOT Center until the mid-1980s.
EPCOT Center opened with more than 30 merchandise locations, most of which were found in World Showcase. Future World locations had contemporary interiors, while the World Showcase shops had a “softer and warmer mood.” When designing the World Showcase shop interiors, designers decided to represent “what people would expect to find on their travels rather than what they actually will see in any given country.”
One of my favorite items in my collection is a merchandise bag which I showed in January 2011. Originally, there were plans for two separate bags, one each for Future World and World Showcase. Those plans were scrapped as one bag was introduced to “illustrate the total EPCOT Center experience” (defined as “awesome” in my book).
While we have several new items releasing starting September 28, I’d love to hear of your favorite souvenir from EPCOT Center.
Excited for the 30th anniversary of Epcot? Take a look back at these posts for more:
Love the article! Probably not at unique but still cool, is my World Showcase Passport. You got to meet people from around the world and got a nifty stamp in the book too. I know it is aimed at the kids, but still fun for the kid-at-heart.
I’d love to see some of this stuff return. Also, the link to your previous post is broken.
What a great post, thank you! I still remember shopping in the Centorium (it was on two floors, if I remember correctly?). I had one of those plush Figments shown in the post, but recently discovered that, while in storage, mice got to him and chewed his foot off to make a nest!
@Kevin – Your memory is correct. Centorium used to have two floors. The second floor could be accessed via stairs or an elevator. Sorry to hear about the Figment plush 🙁
I have those postcards and I think there is a old merchandise bag hidden in a drawer somewhere. 🙂
I still have a Figment that was purchased ~1994. I keep him prominently displayed to remind me to have an imagination! I’m taking my daughter (almost 6) in November and can’t wait to introduce her to Figment.
Wow, Steven, this is like, totally awesome!
I wish I could hop into a Time Machine vehicle and travel backward to 1982 EPCOT Center to spend a bunch of money at the Centorium.
The Merchandise team is doing a great job at re-creating some of the 80’s awesomeness that is EPCOT Center.
@Roger – Thanks for the comment! I am also loving the retro merchandise.
I remember our first trip as a young girl coming home with the Epoct pennant–I was a collector:) And my sister’s Figment. We happened to run into Dreamfinder and Figment outside Imagination one afternoon. It was a wonderful charecter experience-my dad got it all on tape:) So my sister just HAD to get her own Figment! Practically a tempertantrum (she’s younger); however he was very well loved. It was a great trip with great souvinours.
Cool photos. Especially since I have quite a few of the items shown.
I remember this quite fondly, as I was there for the grand opening and attending the cast preview days prior to Oct. 1. Can’t believe it has been 30 years. What an exciting trip it was to finally see the finished park. Still have all of the merchandise that I bought from opening day.
My favorite Epcot souvenir? Wow, so many…My DH and I had our honeymoon at WDW in 1988 for Mickey’s 60th. Besides my Figment Plush, we bought two Epcot Center mugs with Figment on them – they were white porcelain pedestal mugs. We sadly broke one as soon as we got home-I was heartbroken! I call WDW Merchandise Services…they were so helpful and found the exact mugs…I had to buy 4, but that was fine by me! Still have them too! Honestly, I think I love Epcot a little more than Magic Kingdom (but just a little!) and have so many fond memories of the past there…I love your blog posts about Epcot past…please keep them up!!!
Do you have any idea what store is pictured in the second photo? I used to work in Epcot merchandise, and it looks familiar, but I can’t quite place it.
@Harry – I’m thinking it could have been one of the shops under Spaceship Earth near the main entrance. I’m basing this on the lighting (the way the light falls in the photo). In addition, it seems like quite a collection of very EPCOT Center focused goods to which I believe that shop once had). Sadly, the photo was not labeled when I found it in the library.
In one of the pictures you can see an EPCOT Center book, I was lucky to find a copy of this book in a thrift store this summer. It is an awesome book filled with information I haven’t read before! What a find! Thanks for the article, I love reading and collecting these sorts of things!
Would you please please please make dress blouses for women? I’ve “outgrown” the ones I purchased several years ago. They always make my work day a little bit better (I secretly pretend I am working at WDW).
@Crissy – I unfortunately haven’t seen any plans for such shirts. Sorry.